January 27, 2023

Spray foam insulation, is it dangerous? The risks with it in your premises.

Yes, Spray foam can devalue properties and be a risk to your property...what you need to know.
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What is spray foam insulation?

Spray foam is a liquid foam that expands to fit the area available and sets to form an insulating layer. It is typically used to insulate roofs, lofts and attics. There are two main types of spray foam:

Open cell: remains soft after setting. It is not as prone to condensationas closed cell spray foam. However, it does not provide the same level ofinsulation because it is not as dense.
Closed cell: is rigid once set. It contains pocket of gas that slow down the movement of heat. This makes it a better insulator than open cell spray foam. However, it is also a vapor barrier that does not release air.
Spray foam insulation

Which spray foam is best? This will depend on what you are using it for…..

History of spray foam insulation

Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) and Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI)  is commonly used for insulation. SPF and UFFI was thought to be a superior insulating product, when insulation was necessary, and when properly applied thought to provide long-lasting insulation and energy savings.

In the 1970s and ’80s, there was a rush to insulate thousands of homes as quickly and cheaply as possible – and this saw the widespread use of spray foam insulation, this was sprayed into wall and floor cavities and loft spaces. In some cases, it was an effective insulant, and it wasn’t until later that people noticed the issues it caused. Problems with spray foam are generally not related to the product, but rather the process of application. When poorly installed SPF(off-ratio and off-spec) will start to shrink and crack

Chemicals contained with spray foam insulation?

Isocyanates are a class of highly reactive chemicals with widespread industrial, commercial, and retail or consumer applications. Exposure to isocyanates can cause skin, eye and lung irritation, asthma, and “sensitization.” Isocyanates are irritants to the mucous membranes of the eyes and gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. The inhalation of isocyanates is associated with severely adverse health effects such as asthma, inflammation in the respiratory tract and cancer. During thermal degradation of polyurethane materials such as within fires are known to produce very high heat release rates and extremely toxic fumes.

Pure formaldehyde gas (vapors) have been listed as a probable human carcinogen, though formaldehyde in non-vapor forms is not considered carcinogenic. Urea-formaldehyde foam is a solid product, so contact with the foam is not dangerous.

Polyurethane foam is one of the four basic types of products that can be made from raw, liquid polyurethane.

polyurethane products provide a list of potential health effects and their symptoms, but isocyanates have been known to cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, lungs and skin. They also can cause allergic reactions (sensitization) of the skin and lungs.

There is evidence that exposure to high levels of airborne formaldehyde can lead to respiratory problems and other health issues. If you’re worried that your home may have been insulated with it, it’s best to get Summit Environmental to complete some testing.

Spray foam - health effects and impacts on the environment?

Homeowners who are exposed to isocyanates and other spray foam chemicals in vapors, aerosols, and dust during or after the installation process "run the risk of developing asthma, sensitization, lung damage, other respiratory and breathing problems, and skin and eye irritation.

Ozone depleting substances (ODSs) used as blowing agents and trapped in insulation foam in refrigerated areas should not be released into the atmosphere and environmentally sound management should be observed while dismantling and disposing of the foam waste.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Hydrochlorofluorocarbons(HCFCs) and Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are considered to be 'greenhouse' gases. The use of CFC’s was recognised during the 1970s to be a major cause for the depletion of tropospheric ozone by interfering with ozone formation/destruction mechanisms.

Potential problems with spray foam insulation?

Spray foam insulation has been used without incident in many homes for over thirty years, though there have been reported problems including:

·       Reducing ventilation within a roof space;
·       Condensation and stopping moisture from escaping; and
·       Risk of decay of roof timbers

Does spray foam insulation devalue your house?

Yes, Spray foam can devalue properties. It cause issues with some lenders. Some lenders will refuse to accept homes with spray foam insulation as a suitable security for a mortgage or lending. We are also finding that other lenders are following suit and are reluctant to lend on a property that has this type of insulation installed to the roof or cavities.

Selling My Home with Spray Foam Insulation?

Spray Foam Insulation Really Rots Your Roof”
“It rots roofs”

Are common phases associated with spray foam insulations.

It is becoming increasingly popular across the UK.as it can provide more insulation in less space than the traditional wool or insulation boards, such as Celotex, and can also help to reduce drafts and make the property more airtight.

Often the owner of the property will be needed to have the spray foam insulating removed or the roof replaced in order for the property to meet the acceptable standards for the lender. This meant that the existing roof needed to be taken off and everything needed to be new, the timbers, felt and all the tiles.

This all comes at a financial cost to the owner, not to mention the emotional rollercoaster that they would have had to have gone through to be rejected for the mortgage and then to have the roof replaced, all because there was spray foam insulation present.

Final Thoughts

Now, this doesn’t mean that spray foam insulation is a bad thing, it has been used for more than 30 years in the UK and many lenders still deem it an acceptable improvement but, if more and more banks and lenders are refusing to lend or give mortgages on properties with spray foam insulation then it may prove to be more and more difficult to sell your property or tore-mortgage in the future.

In the long-term, this may cause the value of your property to decrease as there could be a situation where there is a lack of available funding to a possible buyer unless the property undergoes an expensive roof replacement being needed which will be at the cost of the owners either directly or through the agreed purchase price of the sale.

If you currently have a mortgage and are considering having spray foam insulation installed then it would be wise to check with your lender that it is an acceptable improvement to them otherwise you may be in for an unwanted surprise and work needing to be done to the property if they were to discover the insulation.

In our experience?

Mortgage lenders do not like this type of spray insulation. Other types of insulation within a loft space are less hazardous and better rated for insulation purposes. As a result of concerns over condensation, spray foam insulation can end up causing problems when you’re buying or selling a property. In our opinion its worth removing.

How to Remove Spray Foam Insulation?

We would advise full removal of spray foam insulation and we undertake this works regularly. We should state from the outset that removing spray foam insulation is no easy task and can be expensive once you consider, labour, waste transport, waste disposal and re-insulation of the loft and maybe a new roof if the loft has deteriorated.

Depending on the product in place, if it is sprayed directly onto the back of the roof tiles, such as in the pictures, there can be lots of crevices that the spray foam can be squeezed into and therefore can be a slow and laborious process but it is possible.

Summit Environmental will be able to efficiently remove your spray foam and dispose of it safely. Once removed we would advise a specialist roofing contractor or building surveyor to inspect the roof on completion of the works to assess roof condition and moisture.

How can Summit Environmental help?

Our spray foam loft insulation services starts with a survey of your loft to access the scale of the foam removal and possible damage to timbers.

Chemical analysis of the foams might be required, to assess if isocyanates or ozone depleting substances are present to assess appropriate waste routes for disposal of the foam waste materials.

Following this we will provide you with a free no obligation quote for removing the spray foam insulation with recommendations for timber treatment and replacement loft insulation materials.

We can also supply and fit loft boards and re-insulate with Celotex or Man-made mineral fibre insulation if required or wanted.

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